Sep 092011


Published by

BETHANY BEACH — As the summer comes to a close, towns and businesses are preparing for the shoulder season.

Carrie Subity, executive director of the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce, said she has been working closely with the Bethany Beach Business Council, which formed last September, to promote events and generate traffic downtown during the offseason.

Among the events being planned are the 33rd annual Bethany Beach Boardwalk Arts Festival on Sept. 10, an exhibition that attracts approximately 100 artists, and the Great Pumpkin Festival in Millville on Oct. 1. Both events attract thousands of visitors, she said.

According to Subity, visitation in the Quiet Resorts during the shoulder season, particularly in the fall, has increased in the past six years. She said retirees and families with young children tend to vacation in September and October, when the summer crowd has dispersed.

“People are seeing how beautiful the fall season is down here,” she said. “There is beautiful weather in September and October.”

While many restaurants and businesses close or reduce their hours after Labor Day, Leroy Gravatte, owner of the Addy Sea, said he will be relying on word-of-mouth advertising to let people know that his bed and breakfast will remain open.

“Our breakfasts are better than ever (in the offseason),” he said. “And customers won’t have to stand in line.”

Gravatte said the beach is best in the fall due to less congestion, warm ocean temperatures and free parking after Sept. 15.

“The parking situation (during the summer season) can be unfriendly (to visitors),” he said. “There are a lot of smiles after the parking machines go down.”

While the bottom line is important, maintaining morale and retaining key employees is essential for Gravatte during the shoulder season. He said he tries to provide year-round employment for his staff, especially during these tough economic times.

“We have some wonderful people who have served us, and we want to retain them,” he said.

Carol Everhart, president and CEO of the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce, said with the addition of more shoulder season events, marketing beach towns is easier than it was 20 years ago.

“What we found is that we’re not (running) 52 (full) weeks a year, but we’re as close as we can to 52 weekends, unless there is bad weather in the area,” she said. “The more that’s offered to (visitors), the more likely they’ll come back.”

Everhart said the Chamber is now planning the 35th annual Fall Sidewalk Sale, Oct. 7-9; the Autumn Jazz Festival, Oct. 12-16; and the 22nd annual Sea Witch Halloween & Fiddler’s Festival, Oct. 28-30, which attracts more than 150,000 guests. The Chamber also does regional and mass marketing to promote the area and keep a competitive edge.

“Our job is to get the visitors here so that the businesses can do business,” Everhart said.

Subity said she hopes events will be held in conjunction with the Bethany Beach Business Council every other weekend in the fall, and more often in the spring.

“It’s kind of a what comes first, the chicken or the egg,” she said. “If businesses see more people in town (during the shoulder season), they’ll tend to stay open longer during the year.”

Sep 082011


Published by: Coastal Point

This Saturday, Sept. 10, hundreds of artisans and crafters will be lining the boardwalk in Bethany for the 33rd Annual Bethany Beach Boardwalk Arts Festival, an event that has become synonymous with the passing of another summer season and the welcoming of autumn. Presented by the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce, the boardwalk arts festival will feature local favorites, returning artists from abroad, and some newcomers to the show, as well, bringing a smorgasbord of mixed media.

“The boardwalk show has really become a tradition in the area,” said local artist Laura Hickman. “It’s a chance for everyone to reconnect. Home owners come back down after Labor Day, and for us artists, we can reconnect with the buyers.”

While travels to Europe have served as the focal point of Hickman’s works in the past, she has turned to the local scenes of Bethany for most of her featured work in this Saturday’s show. “There is so much subject matter around here to work with,” she said.

Samuel Fresa, a jewelrymaker out of Lewes, has been participating in the Bethany Beach Boardwalk Arts Festival over the past five years. His wire-wrapped jewelry, featuring gold and sterling silver pieces, have become popular with the tour goers over the years.

“It’s great to see the customers coming back,” he said. “The show also gives artists a chance to do more networking. I often see people who have bought from me in the past. This is a great area for the business. My two best art shows each year, including this one, are in Bethany Beach.”

Patricia Vojtech, who specializes in triptychs – or three-panel, sequential photography pieces – recalled the success that she’s had in the past along the Bethany Beach boardwalk festival.

“Photography was my full-time job for a while,” she said. “I would do 30 to 40 shows a year and traveled a lot, but I found that my works sell the best when I’m staying closer to home.”

The Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic seaboard have served as a backdrop for much of Vojtech’s work. And the recovering economy has fared well for her as of late.

“I have learned that a lot of people nowadays are looking for large artwork,” she said, “something to fill their walls with cathedral ceilings. A lot of my buyers have turned to my artwork to fill the bankrupt properties. They’re happy with the work and the prices. The show is always a fun time. You’re going to have a nice day along the coast and see some great art.”

Many artists choose to participate in the juried show again after receiving positive feedback and sales in the past, but each year, some new faces join the event, too. Alex Hossick, who learned while she was still high school, from her aunt, how to string pearls for jewelry, has since expanded her medium and enjoys her newfound passion.

“You can be so creative with jewelry,” she said. “I have learned some more advanced techniques, especially with the casting process.”

While some of her jewelry is featured in shops in Maryland and in Georgia, where she now studies, this will mark Hossick’s first big show.

“I’ve never done a festival like this,” she said. “I tend to create jewelry that is organic in form. It has that laid-back feel you get when you’re at the beach. I have worked with a variety of themes, like hummingbirds and flowers. I like to have a little fun with it. But I don’t have too many expectations with the show. I just want to have a good time and sell some jewelry. It’s a great way to feel things out and meet new people.”

Watercolor and oil painter James Kinnett returned to painting as a hobby when he was 50 years old.

“I’ve done shows before, but never this one,” he explained. “People all over collect my work, and, hopefully, I can find new buyers. I often send emails out to my customers to tell them where I’ll be, and many people are looking forward to this weekend.”

Gaston Locklear, another artist set to debut at the 2011 Bethany Beach Boardwalk Arts Festival, is bringing his maritime-inspired oil paintings.

“I’ve always grown up on the coast,” he said. “I’ve surfed and fished a lot, and that has become a lot of my subject matter.”

Ever since he was a kid, Locklear has been drawing and painting, and he turned it into a profession 15 years ago.

“I’ve done festivals over the last eight years, from Florida to Long Island, N.Y.,” he said. “It’s nice to get out there and get more exposure.”

Potter Paul Aspell has been working with clay for more than 30 years. A retired art teacher for the past eight years, most of his free time is filled with producing one-of-a-kind stoneware – functional pottery, including pitchers and teapots, as well as sculptures.

“Bethany Beach is a great little town,” said the Ridgely, Md., native, who will take to the boardwalk show for the first time on Saturday. “I’m currently featured in three galleries, but festivals like this one are a great way to meet new artists and really get into more of a local scene. Of course, every artisan likes to sell their products, but I like putting myself out there. I hope that customers enjoy my work as much as I do.”

The 33rd Anual Bethany Beach Boardwalk Arts Festival will take place on the Bethany Beach Boardwalk and adjacent streets on Saturday, Sept. 10, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. The cost is free for guests, and live music and a silent auction will also be available. For more information, call the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce at (302) 539-2100.